Holly Colaguori and Richard Tenaglia
May 20, 2017, in West Chester
A painter rushed along Cherry Street toward the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, her hurrying keeping her literally on her toes. A sculptor stood transfixed.
“I remember vividly thinking that she must have had a lot of coffee,” Richie said. “It was the cutest thing I had ever seen in my whole life — the quirkiest walk — and I thought, ‘That’s the girl.’ ”
The girl — Holly — tiptoed by.
After being introduced by a mutual friend the following spring, Richie, who was earning his bachelor’s degree at PAFA, and Holly, who was earning her master’s, became friendly acquaintances. Richie remained enchanted but was dating someone else. So was Holly, who had no inkling that Richie was giving her much thought.
He thought about her even more once his relationship dissolved, and hers did, too.
“You never even talk to this girl!” he admonished himself. “What is the best way to engage without looking like a complete, desperate fool?”
During PAFA’s fall 2013 open studio, Richie walked into the space where Holly rendered her slightly surreal figures in oil paint — work he found almost as beautiful as its creator. “Hi, I’m Richie,” he said, in case she didn’t remember his name. “I want you to know I’m one of your biggest fans, and I would love to commission you to do a portrait of me one day.”
Holly strongly suspected that Richie had an ulterior motive, but she was flattered. “A good-looking guy strolls into my studio and says he’s my biggest fan. I thought, ‘OK, he likes my work. And he seems like a nice guy.’ ” Her guard was up, but they exchanged numbers and talked more around campus.
A couple of months later, Richie sent a text asking whether she would pose for sketches he would later sculpt in wood, marble, or ceramic. “You better mean clothed!” she replied. That assured, they met at his studio.
She sat, he sketched. They talked, he joked. Her guard came down.
After the sitting, Richie, a native of Bridesburg who is now 28, asked whether she’d like to meet sometime over the holiday break for dinner and drinks.
Holly, a West Long Branch, N.J., native who is now 27, agreed.
Richie cooked and served their meal among the barrels of the South Philadelphia Wine Cellar — the space below his family business, John’s Custom Stairs — where the Tenaglias teach people how to make wine.
“I wanted to bring her to the place where I’m most comfortable, to show her where I’m from and my background,” he said. “I was praying to God that she would like the food.”
“He made a crab, artichoke, and spinach pasta,” Holly said. They also shared two bottles of wine. “It was so delicious.”
The date was delicious, too. “We talked about everything, about school, about art,” Holly said. “He was telling me a story that was touching, and I felt myself tear up. I thought, ‘Am I crying on my first date with this guy?’ But it was just fine.”
They danced to Richie’s playlist.
On date number three, he told her he loved her. “When we’re together, it almost seems like a dream, like you’re walking, and nothing else is going on around you. That’s what it felt like being with her — nothing else really mattered.”
Holly’s mom always said love is supposed to be natural, not a struggle. Her past relationships made her think that was impossible, but with Richie, it was so true. “He makes me feel like the best version of myself,” she said.
She is still waiting for the commission Richie promised, but his legs made it into one of her paintings. Every female figure he sculpts draws inspiration from Holly.
One weekend in November 2014, Richie asked Holly to wear something nice; he was taking her out for her birthday. Between getting fancy and the hour-long trip from her parents’ place to his, she was a bit late.
Usually, Richie greeted her at her car and helped her with her things. This time, she saw him pacing in the vestibule.
“Oh, no.” Holly thought. “Is he mad that I’m late?”
“I was sweating bullets,” Richie said. “I think I burned a trail in the wood floor.”
He asked her to follow him to the living room. “I knew from the first time I saw you, when you were walking on your tiptoes. And you’ve been my best friend ever since we’ve been together. “
He dropped to one knee. Holly sobbed. She was somehow shaking, crying, and smiling at the same time. Finally, she blurted out: “Did you ask my dad?”
Richie burst out laughing. He had, in fact, received Richard’s blessing, and mom Patti’s, too.
“I would have said yes either way,” Holly clarifies. “I was just so shocked, and so happy. I kept saying ‘Oh, my God, Oh, my God, Oh, my God!’ ”
She said yes — and held out the wrong hand for the ring.
As on their first date, dinner was not at a restaurant. Richie hosted a 30-person surprise party at the Mill, an event/exhibition space his family ran atop the wine cellar and stairs business. The couple now runs the space.
It was so them
The couple, who now live in Hatfield, married in a traditional Catholic ceremony performed by the Rev. Ronald Check, who has known Richie since they were in the Boy Scouts.
Richie’s parents, John and Joan, are opera singers. They ensured wonderful music abounded. The Rittenhouse Strings played, and their friend Melanie sang much of the Mass.
His father was best man; her sisters Amy and Julie were matrons of honor.
Their reception for 128 was held at Greystone Hall. The classical architecture, sprawling grounds, and frescos and murals appealed to both of them, and reminded Holly of her favorite book, Pride and Prejudice, particularly the look of the 2005 film based on it, which became their guiding design principle. “We put tall tapers on the table and used an antiquey looking mix of pinks, purples, blues, and gold” for everything from centerpieces to bridal party attire, she said.
The guests drank wine the groom and his dad had made.
Her sisters’ toast was a duet sung to the tune of Simon and Garfunkel’s “The Sounds of Silence.” His father’s was a roast of family and friends, and a playful warning to Holly that she had just married the whole lot of them.
Holly danced with her dad to Phil Collins’ “You’ll Be in My Heart,” which melded into Sister Sledge’s “We Are Family” as everyone joined them.
“Are you all right, pal?” one of Richie’s closest friends asked as the groom was getting ready. Richie actually felt wonderful, but unusual — like this was the start of something life-changing. “I felt the same thing I felt when I proposed,” he said. “All of those beginning feelings happened all over again.”
Holly’s day also dawned with excitement and jitters. She put the Pride and Prejudice soundtrack on her earphones and went for a walk to clear her head. “I had a moment of thinking about marrying Richie, the love of my life, and thinking about the significance of the day.”
His eyes filled with tears when she walked down the aisle, and that made her cry, too.
The budget crunch
A bargain: Sage Caterers put together a plentiful food package, and even supplied a vegan cake for the dairy-sensitive groom.
The splurge: Greystone wasn’t the cheapest venue they found, but it was the right one.
A week in Charleston, S.C.
Behind the scenes
Officiant: The Rev. Ronald Check, Philadelphia.
Ceremony: St. Agnes Catholic Church, West Chester.
Reception: Greystone Hall, West Chester.
Food: Sage Catering, Berwyn.
Music: DJ John Weber, Sound Choice Disc Jockeys Inc., Lawrenceville, N.J.
Photography: Ashlee Mintz, Clair Pruett Photography, Havertown.
Flowers: Fleur De Lis Floral, Paoli.
Dress: Stella York, Arielle Bridal Inc., Ambler.
Hair/Makeup: Castaldi’s Salon, Chadds Ford.
Groom’s attire: Calvin Klein, Rudi’s Formal Wear, Philadelphia.
Transportation: Delaware Express, Newark, Del.